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When most people think of Oahu, visions of tan surfers catching waves in Waikiki with a backdrop of Diamond Head probably come to mind. But there is much more to Hawaii’s third largest island. Here are a few of our favorite “off-the-beaten” path places worth checking out when visiting “The Gathering Place.”

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Photo courtesy: Getty Images/hipho

Beautiful beaches

Lanikai: One the most picturesque beaches in Hawaii is located in this private neighborhood on the windward (i.e. wetter) side of the island. The transparent turquoise water laps against the white sand beach while the twin Nā Mokulua islands offshore provide a postcard-perfect scene. Kayakers are often spotted paddling back-and-forth between the small islands.

Kaimana: Located at the far south end of Waikiki, away from the tourists, this beach is protected by a reef so the water is typically calm and shallow. It’s great for families or for those who want to go for a gentle ocean swim followed by soaking up some sun on a peaceful patch of sand, or stay the night at the adjacent New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel.


Photo courtesy: Disney Aulani

Alluring attractions

Hydrotherapy Garden: If a spa escape is what you’re looking for, head to Ko Olina, on the leeward (i.e. drier) side of the island. The Laniwai Spa, at the Disney Aulani Resort, is home to the island’s only hydrotherapy garden. This 5,000-square-foot Kula Wai Outdoor Hydrotherapy Garden consists of vitality baths, soaking pools, six unique waterfall rain showers with various water pressures and temperatures, whirlpool jet spas, a cold plunge, a reflexology walking path and outdoor lounge area. Access to the hydrotherapy garden is free with a full-service spa treatment.

Beach camping at Malaekahana: Enjoy the true beauty of the Hawaiian Islands by sleeping under the stars. Hear the gentle sway of the ocean tides, feel the warm tropical breeze and gaze at a star-filled sky at a camp site for less than ten-dollars per person, per night. Didn’t bring a tent? There are also hales (plantation huts) that sleep up to four guests. Surfboard, body board, SUP and bike rentals are available on site.

Kim Taylor Reese Gallery: Bring home a souvenir that showcases the Hawaiian heritage through hula with a piece of artwork from the Kim Taylor Reese Gallery. Kim Taylor Reece, Hawaii’s foremost fine art photographer, captures the spirit of Aloha through his sepia-toned photographs of men and women performing the ancient ritual of the hula dance. The oceanside gallery is located in beautiful Sacred Falls.


Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Terry Yamaguchi

Breathtaking vistas

SKY Waikiki: The view from SKY Waikiki, a rooftop dining hot spot, is hard to beat. From the 19th floor, the expansive panorama includes iconic Diamond Head, Waikiki skyline, and the sprawling Pacific Ocean. This upscale restaurant, lounge and nightclub is a great place to enjoy Waikiki’s night scene.

Diamond Head: The .8-mile uphill hike to the top of Diamond Head (Le’ahi) is daunting, but worth it. The view from the top is unbeatable. This historic hike will give you a glimpse into the military history of Oahu and the geology of the crater will challenge you with numerous steep stairs, and reward you with memorable views of Waikiki and beyond. Bring a flashlight for climbing the stairs in the dimly lit bunker. There is a $5-per-car entrance fee to the Diamond Head State Park.

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Photo courtesy: Getty Images/RosannaU

Rewarding hikes

Manoa Falls: Situated in Manoa Valley, just past the University of Hawaii, is a manageable 1.5-mile round-trip hike to Manoa Falls. Although the 100-foot waterfall is slight in size compared to some of the doozies on Kauai, it is still a beautiful site to behold. No swimming is allowed in the pool, but the well-maintained scenic trail will take you through a lush bamboo forest before you reach the base of the waterfall.

Koko Head: This steep 1.8-mile trail was a former railway track that leads to the top of Koko Crater. Be prepared to climb more than 1,000 steps. Once at the top, you’ll enjoy 360-degree views of the ocean, the Hawaii Kai area, and beyond.


Photo courtesy: Prince Waikiki

Coastal chic lodging

The Kahala Hotel & Resort: Avoid the masses in Waikiki and head to The Kahala Hotel & Resort, a luxury beachfront property that offers fine dining options, a full-service spa, on-property boutique shopping, and a kid’s club. Unique to the property is the chance to swim with dolphins in a lagoon pool or hop aboard an authentic Hawaiian sailing canoe to learn the history and geography of the area.

Prince Waikiki: With its location at the far north end of Waikiki, across from the Ala Wai Harbor, the newly renovated Prince Waikiki is close to the activities that Waikiki offers, but removed from the jam-packed beaches and streets. Relax at the infinity pool, grab a pupu and a Mai Tai at 100 Sails Restaurant & Bar, or catch the shuttle to the hotel’s private 27-hole golf course.


Photo courtesy: New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel

Notable eateries

Hau Tree Lanai: Enjoy al fresco oceanfront dining at the Hau Tree Lanai, located in the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel. With a menu that includes items such as islander crab cakes, escargot maison, fresh Kona lobster, and Black Angus filet mignon, this upscale restaurant is sure to be a hit.

North Shore Food Trucks: Head to the North Shore for some succulent roadside delicacies. You’ll find a cluster of them near Haleiwa, serving things ranging from fried shrimp, huli huli chicken or street style tacos to malasadas, pasteles, and, of course, shave ice.

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Tagged: Hawaii

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Sharael Kolberg |
​Sharael, founder of Family Travel Channel (, has been writing about travel since 1995. Her work has appeared in Sunset magazine, Outside magazine,,, and many others. Follow her on Twitter @FamTravChannel, FB and Instagram @FamilyTravelChannel. See more of her work at
Sharael Kolberg |


Where to stay, where to eat, and what to do once you arrive. Follow me on Instagram @familytravelchannel. #familytravel #travelblogger #influencer
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